Do You Hear Thunder?

Like the thunderclap that announces the onset of the storm, the U.S. Department of Energy has issued an historic and ominous prediction. And the only news I can find about it is in Mother Jones.

Until recently — to be precise, until January 20, 2009 — the Energy Department has functioned as cheerleader and enabler for the energy companies. It’s policy was, what’s good for Big Oil (and Big Electricity, and Big Money) was good for America and talk about peak oil was un-American. Its annual International Energy Outlook has for decades been a sunny look into a future in which cheap and plentiful oil was everybody’s birthright.

The notion of peak oil as discussed in BRACE for IMPACT — that world oil production has peaked and is about to begin a long and irreversible decline while demand for oil continues to skyrocket — has been met with scorn by Big Oil and its minions. Apparently the Energy Department is no longer a minion.

Its 2009 forecast, just released, predicts:

  • a sharp drop in world oil production below the Department’s previous predictions. It has subtracted 14 million barrels per day from its estimate of 2030 production, which it now pegs at 93 million bpd. The most recent confirmed number, for 2007, is 85 million bpd.
  • the replacement of the United States as the world’s number one oil hog with China, whose demand is expected to resume its meteoric rise as soon as the worldwide recession eases.

The report is not yet a specific admission that peak oil is upon us. But its more honest depiction of the world situation clearly implies that the inevitable contraction of oil supplies has begun. The consequences for an oil-addicted world and country are enormous. Good luck finding a discussion of them.

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